2006-06-10 / Front Page

'Moving Wall' Passes Through Area

Thousands of people traveled to neighboring McKean County to visit the famous Moving Wall, a tribute to the nearly 60,000 people who were killed in the Vietnam War. The wall is being presented in communities across the East Coast. In the photo, Emporium's Jamie Fragale (left) and an unknown visitor look over the names on the moving replica. Thousands of people traveled to neighboring McKean County to visit the famous Moving Wall, a tribute to the nearly 60,000 people who were killed in the Vietnam War. The wall is being presented in communities across the East Coast. In the photo, Emporium's Jamie Fragale (left) and an unknown visitor look over the names on the moving replica. "Healing" was the adjective that seemed most fitting as a powerful symbol of the controversial Vietnam War rolled into McKean County for a five-day stay.

The Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall, standing in the spotlights of Smethport's Hamlin Lake Park, drew visitors 'round the clock. Some came to remember, others to

educate a younger generation about an era in this nation's history that remains troubling and confusing, even to those who lived through it.

For yet others, the display was more personal - they were the parents, the children, the spouses, the brothers and sisters, and others for whom the war's tragedies were more personal.

The Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall is a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It measures 250 feet long and rises from a height of four feet on either end to six feet in the center.

Alex Davis Photo Alex Davis Photo It is often referred to as "the wall that heals," because it allows Americans to honor and remember, in comfortable and familiar surroundings, those who sacrificed their lives in service to our nation.

Dozens of Cameron County residents made the short trip over to Smethport, day and night, to pay their respects and reflect on the war. Each visitor was met by volunteers from local military organizations who stood sentinel, 24 hours a day, willing to assist those with questions or respect one's wishes to silently look on and reflect.

Three of the 58,245 Vietnam War casualties whose names appear on the wall were natives of Cameron County: Tom Clark, Butch Gennocro and Albert (Doc) Peterson.

There were numerous other victims with local connections, including Coudersport's Eddie Tubbs, who was engaged to Jane Marie Haviland of Emporium when he was killed by small arms fire in January 1969.

This isn't the first time the "moving" (in more ways that one) wall has visited the region, but it's the first time the memorial has appeared locally while the nation is at war.

Dave Ford, commander of Bucktail American Legion Post 138, was committee chair for the wall's visit. Ford acknowledged that some who came to see the wall questioned the wisdom of the Americanled invasion of Iraq and other elements of the "War on Terror," at the same time they lamented the missteps of yesteryear's government leaders.

Still, politics took a back seat to patriotism in Smethport. Ceremonies, prayer services and organized tributes were spaced out over the five days, ending with a poignant "reflection ceremony" before the honor guard stood down and the wall was disassembled on Monday afternoon.

Flowers, essays, poems and even war medals were laid at the base of the wall. These were collected by the organizers, boxed and marked for preservation as the wall continued on to its next stop.

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